Friday, April 3, 2009

Vegetable Delight

Ok. I had great fun at the farmer's market. They had asparagus (probably my favorite vegetable of all time) and garlic sprouts (possibly my second favorite vegetable of all time). Then, just randomly, I happened by an Asian market where I picked up a huge package of burdock root.

I love burdock root, but I've never figured out how to cook it other than in kinpara (stir fried with sesame oil, soy sauce and mirin), and I wanted to make a dish that showcased the different flavors of the vegetables. I came up with the idea of par boiling all the vegetables and then cooking them in olive oil and a small amount of dairy free butter until they caramelized. All of the vegetables were a big hit, especially the burdock root and garlic sprouts. The burdock root took on a nutty flavor, almost like hazelnuts, as it caramelized. The combination worked well with the different flavors and colors, it was a feast for the eyes and the stomach.

Burdock root is one of the richest sources of inulin, a non-digestible fiber that provides food for the healthy probiotic bacteria in your digestive tract.  Increasingly, food companies are adding inulin to processed foods such as crackers, yogurt and cereals. It can be found naturally in burdock root, asparagus, artichokes, garlic and chicory.

1/2 head small cauliflower, cut into florets
2 garlic sprouts or 1 leek, sliced thinly
1 burdock root, cut on an angle or julienned
1 carrot, shaved with a carrot peeler
1/2 bunch asparagus, trimmed
Olive oil
Earth Balance or other dairy free butter substitute
Salt, pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to boil. Par boil the cauliflower, burdock root and asparagus individually, approximately 2 minutes for the asparagus, 3-4 minutes for the cauliflower and 5 minutes for the burdock root. Add oil and butter to a large saute pan. Saute the carrots for 2 minutes and set aside. Then, saute the garlic sprouts until soft, about 4 minutes, and set aside. Saute cauliflower, asparagus and burdock root individually, turning to brown all sides. Arrange on a pretty platter and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Carrot Daikon Salad

I spent the winter holidays in Japan, and have been inspired by many of the foods we ate while on our trip. Now that I'm back in California, I find myself trying to combine the flavors from my garden with traditional Japanese dishes.

We have a Mexican lime tree growing on our balcony laden with fruit. Today I decided to make a Japanese style salad - julienned carrot and daikon radish - dressed simply with Mexican lime, salt and mirin. The salad is topped with fresh cilantro sprigs from the farmers market.

1/4 medium daikon radish, julienned
1 medium carrot, julienned
6 sprigs cilantro, torn roughly
juice from 1 small Mexican lime or 1/2 regular lime
2 teaspoons mirin, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Combine daikon and carrot in a medium bowl. Squeeze lime juice over the salad. Sprinkle with salt and mirin. Mix well. Top with cilantro.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Corn Cob Soup

This soup reminds me of the children's fable "Stone Soup" - making something hearty and satisfying from little. The recipe is an adaptation of one of my mom's recipes, she is one of the thriftiest people I know and will never let something useful go to waste.

The technique is to use corn cobs to make the stock, imparting an intense corn flavor to the soup, and a nice counterpart to the other vegetables. You can freeze fresh corn and corn cobs in the summer to make this soup the winter.

I had this soup in mind this morning, thinking I would raid my freezer stash for the corn and corn cobs. But, at the farmers market I found the season's last three ears of corn -- the kernels gnarly and overgrown -- just perfect for soup. 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 small carrots, diced
3 medium red skinned potatoes, peeled and diced
3 ears corn
4 - 5 cups water
1 cup soy or rice milk (optional)

Bring water to a boil in a medium pot. Reduce heat to low. Add the three ears of corn to the pot to start the stock. As you peel and dice the vegetables, add the ends and peels to the pot. The trimmings add color and flavor to the stock. Simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat one tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the onion and saute until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the diced celery and carrots, and saute another 5 minutes.  Add the potatoes. 

Strain the stock through a colander into the soup pot. Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer until the potato is almost tender.

While the soup is simmering, cut corn from the corn cobs and set aside. When the potatoes are almost done*, add the corn kernels to the pot and continue to simmer until potatoes are done. Add milk, if desired.

*Sometimes, I puree the soup before adding the corn kernels. The potatoes make the soup nice and thick. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blueberries !

We spent the second half of our summer in Canaan Valley, West Virginia visiting my parents. Canaan Valley is unique in that much of the valley and adjacent land is protected -- there are 2 state parks, a national forest, wildlife refuge and wilderness area -- in very close proximity.

This was the first year that Ben could do decently long hikes, and I can still just manage to carry Bruno when he's tired, so we were able to explore some areas that we have never been able to get to before.

Our adventures included quite a bit of wild foraging. Mid August brings wild blueberries, huckleberries, dewberries, blackberries, and apples, and we picked our share of each.

With good rains this year, blueberries grew in abundance. We picked more than enough to make blueberry pancakes with blueberry sauce, as well as a spectacular blueberry pie.

Dad made pancakes using the Overnight Buckwheat Pancake recipe, adding blueberries to the batter, replacing the coconut butter with olive oil (it was what we had in the cabinet), and omitting the cinnamon. The blueberry pancakes are shown here with local West Virginia maple syrup and blueberry sauce. Dad made the sauce by cooking down wild blueberries with water and a little bit of cornstarch as thickener.

For the pie, I made the pecan-rice flour crust from the Cherry Tart recipe, omitting the cinnamon and vanilla. For the filling I mixed 3 or so cups of blueberries with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, a little bit of water and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Radish Boy Goes Camping

If you've been wondering where I've been... we went camping !

We camped at the most incredible site in Sequioa/ Kings Canyon, along the side of a river, in view of a waterfall (Lodgepole site #124, in case you are wondering).
Notice the big brown bear box in our camp for storing food. Bears are taken very seriously, they will come into your camp or break into your car if they see food. We saw four bears on this trip. A mother bear and cub walked by our campsite, we saw two bears while we were hiking, and there were bear paw prints on the windows of the van parked next to our car. So, we were very careful to keep all of our food out of sight in the bear bin.
It was good fun cooking on our trip. Classic camp food is easy to make gluten free. We cooked up a big pots of rice in the evenings, and made onigiri (seaweed wrapped rice balls) for the next days' lunch. We also cooked lots of beans and lentils, and brought along the hardier vegetables like garlic, onions, potatoes, radishes and carrots. For fruit we brought apples, oranges and avocados.
I had fun putting together a collection of spices to bring along on the trip. Some Japanese furikake, shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice pepper), garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt and black pepper. I have little tiny furikake shakers (really, they are for using in a bento box) that were the perfect size for holding the right amount of spice for the trip.

Breakfast was my favorite meal of the day. One morning we had 'scrambled' tofu in tortillas with salsa. Every day we made up some big mugs of hot chocolate. Here is our day three camp breakfast - spicy chickpeas, pan-fried red skinned potatoes, and freeze dried banana chips. It is gluten free, vegan, and made of ingredients that don't require refrigeration.olive oil
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1/4 red onion, diced
1 can chickpeas, drained
5 small red-skinned potatoes, quartered and sliced
1 teaspoon cumin
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
Shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice pepper), or substitute red chilli pepper
2 burner camp stove

Heat fry pan over medium-high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add sliced garlic and fry until garlic is well browned and oil is fragrant. Add red onion and cook until softened. Add drained chickpeas, cumin, salt and pepper to taste.

In a second pan or pot, add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add sliced potatoes and fry until golden brown. When the potatoes are well browned, push the potatoes to one side of the pan and add some minced garlic to about a teaspoon of olive oil. Cook the garlic until fragrant. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shichimi togarashi and spicy chickpeas.

If you have only one pot, and your pot is big enough, you can mix the two dishes together.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Grilled Sweet Corn

With longer days finishing in absolutely beautiful evenings, its time to fire up the grill at our house - and that means its time for dad to get a turn - and not just in the kitchen, but also on Radish Boy. So let's welcome Brian, our first ever Radish Boy guest blogger!!!

There are different theories about how best to cook corn on a grill. Sometimes we soak the corn in its husks, and then throw the un-husked corn straight on the grill, cooking for about 2-3 minutes per side, which works fine, but what you get is basically steamed corn.

Recently though our grill mojo has been working a bit harder for us - and we've been producing the grilled corn shown above. Here's the recipe:

Husk 4-5 cobs of corn, removing all the stringy bits.

Prepare "garlic butter" marinade - in a small mixing bowl, mash 3-4 cloves of finely chopped garlic (more if you like it really garlicky) into 5-6 tablespoons of Earth Balance Whipped buttery spread.

Lightly brush the garlic butter mixture on the corn, and then throw it on the grill, over indirect heat on your bar-b-que. Turn frequently, liberally dousing with salt and brushing on more butter each time you turn, until the kernels are nicely browned all around - total cooking time is just 8-10 minutes. Don't worry if some parts are darker or lighter than others!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Gluten Free Sweet Potato Tempura

Here is gluten free, vegan sweet potato tempura. It came out light and crisp and oh so yummy.

Tempura, a Japanese dish of deep fried vegetables, fish and shrimp in a crispy wheat and egg based batter, has long been a kind of holy grail for me. When I was living in Japan, long before giving up gluten, tempura was one of my favorite foods. But I never tried to make it at home.

Having to give up gluten and egg changed that for me. Suddenly I craved tempura all the time. And if couldn't get gluten free tempura at a restaurant, I'd have to figure out how to make it myself.

The epiphany for me came while I was reading one of my Indian cookbooks. In it was a recipe for onion bhaji, onions coated in thick chick pea flour batter and spices and deep fried, served with a spicy sauce.

I made a slightly thinner batter using chick pea flour and it worked ! The batter works well with any vegetables or fish. I've had good success with julienned vegetables such as sweet potato, carrots, string beans and onions mixed together and coated with batter to make a kind of 'nest.' Here I served the sweet potatoes with a wedge of lime. Sometimes I make a dipping sauce using grated daikon and gluten free soy sauce.

Here's the recipe:

2 cups chickpea flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup cold water
vegetables, fish and/or shrimp
vegetable oil to fry, such as canola or rice bran

In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually mix in cold water to make a batter.

Heat enough oil in a wok or deep pan to deep fry. Test the temperature by dropping small bits of batter into the oil. When the turn golden brown, the oil is ready.

Lightly dip vegetables, fish or shrimp into the batter and immediately drop into the oil. Turn over once. They are down when golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chia-Flax Seed Crackers with Hummus and Avocado

Snack time !

These are dehydrated crackers made from flax, sesame, chia and sunflower seeds.

Chia seeds (remember the Chia Pet?) are exceptionally rich in essential fatty acids, the seeds contain up to 60% omega 3 fatty acids, comparing favorably to flax seeds, another seed rich in essential fatty acids. Another 20% of the chia seed is comprised of protein, and the chia seed contains many important and rare nutrients such as calcium, zinc, vitamin B-6, magnesium, vitamin C, iron, thiamin, niacin, folate, phosphorus, and boron.

I discovered chia seeds about a year ago as a treatment for constipation. At the time, my younger son had infrequent bowel movements and we were looking for some possibilities to speed things up. Chia seeds really did the trick. Chia seeds are unique in their ability to absorb more than 10 times their weight in water, promoting hydration in the gastrointestinal tract and stimilating elimination.

Dehydrated crackers are a great way to try chia seeds as they have a pleasant nutty flavor and crunch. These crackers are great with homemade hummus and slices of avocado. It is one of my favorite snacks.

1 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 cup sesame seeds
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon celtic sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder

Pour flax and chia seeds into a medium sized bowl and add 2 cups of filtered water. The seeds will become very gooey. Pour sesame and sunflower seeds into a second medium sized bowl and add 2 cups of filtered water. Soak seeds for 6 to 12 hours. Drain and rinse the sesame and sunflower seeds and add to the flax and chia seeds. Do not drain the flax and chia seed mixture. Add the sea salt, garlic powder and onion powder.

Spread on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate at 105 degrees for 8 to 12 hours or overnight. Flip over onto a mesh tray and dry for another 4 to 6 hours or until completely crisp.

Store in an airtight container.

Friday, May 16, 2008


... a better title for this post is "How to Get Your Kids to Eat Seaweed."

Furikake is a Japanese condiment used as a seasoning for rice. It is made from ingredients such as seaweed, sesame seeds, dried bonito flakes, salt and sugar. Sprinkled on top of a bowl of rice or added to rice balls, furikake adds color, flavor and nutrition to plain rice.

Here I've made a gluten free version using nori seaweed, white sesame seeds and celtic sea salt. I've toasted the nori and the sesame seeds to intensify the flavor. My kids love it, in part because it's so silly to say 'furikake,' in part because it's fun to shake it out of the container onto their rice, and in part because it just tastes great.

Here's the recipe:

1/3 cup nori
1/8 cup white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)

Heat oven to 250 degrees.

Place nori and sesame seeds on a baking tray for 5 minutes or until the nori is crispy and sesame seeds are toasted. Take out the nori before it starts to brown. It may be necessary to toast the sesame seeds longer than the nori.

Add sea salt to a suribachi, a Japanese mortar and pestle, or to your food processor. Grind the sea salt slightly, then add half the sesame seeds. Grind until the sesame seeds are smashed and mixed with the salt. Crumble the nori into the mixture. Mix in the remaining sesame seeds.

Sprinkle on rice as desired. Or use instead of salt to season potatoes, vegetables, fish or chicken.

You can find furikake at Japanese supermarkets and on the internet. Please be sure to read the labels carefully if you have allergies or are on a gluten free diet. Many of the commercial brands contain soy sauce as a seasoning, which can contain wheat. Some brands also contain allergens such as dried egg, fish and shrimp. And some contain monosodium glutamate.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sprouted Brown Rice

If you haven't seen it yet, you will soon. Sprouted brown rice is all the rage.

What is it? Sprouted brown rice, known as hatsuga genmai in Japanese, is brown rice that is allowed to germinate by soaking the rice before cooking.

The process of germination enhances the bio-availability of nutrients by neutralizing phytic acid, the enzyme inhibitor in all grains, seeds and beans, that bind nutrients within the grain until the conditions are right for the grain to sprout. Consumption of unsprouted grains can lead to poor absorption of the nutrients in the grain. The incompletely digested proteins can irritate the intestines, leading to inflammation and allergic reactions. Neutralizing the phytic acid, releases the protein, vitamins and enzymes, allowing these important nutrients to be absorbed during digestion.

Traditionally, grains have almost always been soaked, sprouted or fermented before eaten. In Europe, bread was carefully cultured and fermented over a long period of time before being baked. In Africa, the staple grain millet has traditionally been soaked and fermented before being cooked into a porridge. In Scotland and Ireland, whole oats were always soaked overnight before cooking into a breakfast porridge, although we have lost that tradition in modern times with our instant oatmeal. In Asia, brown rice and millet traditionally were rinsed, then soaked overnight before cooking. Even today, the typical Japanese housewife knows to soak her rice before cooking.

In Japan there has recently been renewed interest in sprouted rice thanks to a number of recent scientific studies done on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally occurring amino acid created during the germination process. The consumption of GABA is credited with important health benefits that range from lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, boosting the immune system, improving sleep, and inhibition of cancer cells.

So it makes good sense to soak and sprout your rice. Both from the perspective of tradition and science.

And it is easy to do. Any kind of brown rice will work (white rice won't work because the part of the rice that germinates has been removed). In the picture above, I have sprouted basmati brown rice (you can see the tiny sprouts in the picture). Here is the process:

1. Rinse 1 1/2 cups (or more if desired) brown rice several times until the water is clear.

2. Place the rice in a bowl and cover well with filtered water.

3. Let stand 12 hours or overnight.

4. Pour rice into a strainer and rinse well.

5. Set the strainer over a bowl to drain out of direct sunlight. Cover with a clean dishtowel.

6. Every 12 hours, rinse the rice well.

7. After 24 to 48 hours, small sprouts will appear. Use or refrigerate the rice until ready to use.

8. Cook as you would cook unsprouted brown rice, using slightly less water (for the 1 1/2 cups of rice in this recipe, use 2 cups water). The cooking time will also be shorter.

Sprouted brown rice has a pleasant nutty taste, and is less heavy and noticeably more digestible compared to unsprouted rice.

If you don't want to spout your own, you can find germinated brown rice at some natural foods markets and on-line. DHC, a Japanese health and beauty company, sells germinated brown rice on their website. Also, Zojirushi, a Japanese appliance manufacturer, sells several rice cookers with a built in 'GABA' feature that sprouts the rice for you during the cooking process.

Monday, May 5, 2008

I'm on the Radio !

I am this week's guest on Global Healing Radio, an internet radio station dedicated to education and awareness of issues related to healing.

I'll be talking about the connection between food allergies and nutrition, as well as my quest to heal my son's allergies by changing what and how we eat.

The hour long interview will broadcast on Tuesday May 6 and Thursday May 8 at 7:00 am and 7:00 pm EST. Click here to listen.

If you miss the show, you can download the podcast here, which will be uploaded after the show airs on Tuesday.

Also, you can check out my story on the Global Healing Vision blog.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Acai Sorbet

This is Acai-Banana-Strawberry-Lime Sorbet, garnished with a sprig of mint. It is gluten free, vegan and contains no refined sugar.

Something that I really enjoy is browsing my local natural food store for new and interesting products. I'm always amazed by the selection -- on my trip to the store Tuesday I saw chocolate covered goji berries, roasted flax seed ground and mixed with pomegranate powder, spirulina snack bars, and freeze dried blueberries. I didn't buy any of these, but I did pick up some pureed Acai fruit in the freezer section thinking I would figure out what to do with it when I got home.

Acai (pronouced ah-sigh-ee) is a small, intensely purple, berry-like fruit that grows abundantly in the Brazilian Amazon. It it getting quite a bit of press these days as the latest superfood thanks to high levels of antioxidents, the molecules that protect our cells from free radicals, as well as of essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals.

The Acai fruit is not sweet at all (the nutrition label on my package shows it contains no sugars), and the flavor is complex. I thought it tasted like a combination of a very dark berry, such as a blackberry, combined with chocolate.

At first I couldn't quite figure out what to do with the Acai. I thought about making a smoothie with bananas and honey. I thought it might work well in my fruit leather recipe. I also gave some thought to adding it to some kind of mole recipe as the taste is quite complex and would marry well with chiles and other spices (in fact, I'd like to try this next). Ultimately I decided to mix the Acai puree with bananas, strawberries, lime juice and agave syrup to make sorbet.

Wow ! The sorbet came out great.

My husband is eating some right now. My older son who, as you know from previous posts, doesn't like many fruits had two servings. It is not very sweet (it could be made sweeter by adding more agave syrup) and has a depth of flavor that almost reminds me of drinking wine or eating really good dark chocolate.

I used bananas and strawberries because that is what I had. I think the sorbet would be good with almost any berry such as blueberries, raspberries or blackberries. The lime juice added just a bit of tartness.

Here's the recipe:

14 ounces Acai puree, thawed
2 medium bananas, sliced
10 medium strawberries, sliced
2 limes, juiced
1/4 cup agave syrup (or to taste)

Add the Acai puree, sliced bananas, sliced strawberries, lime juice, and agave syrup to your blender. Blend until smooth. Taste, and add more agave or lime juice as necessary.

If you have a sorbet or ice cream maker, follow the instructions on your machine.

Otherwise, pour the puree fruit into a baking pan and place in the freezer. Stir every 20 minutes until set.

Serve immediately, or transfer to a lidded container and store in the freezer.